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4 Tenants of Successful Investing: If You’re Gonna Do It – DO IT!

This is the second of a four part series on the parallels I’ve observed as a basketball coach, between the life lessons of sports, and successful objective driven investing.

One uncompromisable tenant of every team that I coach is that my players will give everything 100% of their best effort.  If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth nothing less.  All or nothing.  Said another way, if you’re gonna do it, DO IT!.

There are plenty of places in life where something less than 100% is not only acceptable, its fantastic.  For example, if you’re a student and earn a 90 on every test, then you’ll likely be able to attend the college of your choosing.  In the major leagues, if you bat 0.400, then you’ll end your career in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  But there are a few areas in life that are either left or right, up or down, north or south, hot or cold, negative or positive.  You are one or the other.  You can’t be both, and there is no middle ground.  The basketball court is one of those places.

As a coach, I demand an all or nothing, do it or don’t attitude because I’m using the sport as a laboratory to convey that life lesson.  If its worth doing, then its worth your absolute best effort, and if you don’t put that forward, then I’ll have no problem introducing the player to 100% of the bench.  It’s important, because right now, the only risk is that a player sits the bench for a while.  Ten years from now though, the stakes go up.  Way up.  See, there is no such thing as a 99% employee.  There is no such thing as a 99% father.  There is no such thing as a 99% husband.  Anything less than 100% in these areas is unacceptable, and if I haven’t used basketball as a tool to teach my players this lesson, then I’ve failed them as a coach, regardless of the number of games we might have won.

So, where is the parallel between this and successful objective driven investing?

Well, no one ever achieved 100% of their financial goals with a 75% commitment and half hearted effort.  Financial planning is very much like a mirror.  You will get from it, no less and no more than what you put into it.  Mediocrity in, gets mediocrity out.  Last month, we talked about establishing objectives and outworking yesterday.  Now that we’ve established those goals, its time to pursue them with 100% commitment, effort, and dedication.  No one is going to do it for you.

It’s painful to walk off a basketball court following a one point loss, when you know, that you gave it 80% of your best mental and physical effort.  Likewise, its painful to get to the end of your working career, only to realize that Social Security alone isn’t enough, and you need to find a part time job just to make ends meet.  Its too late at that point to regret having given an 80% effort to your retirement plan.

So, when I’m working with my clients, I strongly encourage them to take full advantage of an employer’s retirement plan benefits, and individual plans to which they have access.  The self employed have a myriad of tax favored options at their disposal.  There are tools for college planning, and strategies for efficient estate planning.  But you have to give it 100%, or you’ll wind up with something less.

You’re not going to retire on $50 a month into an IRA.  You’re not going to send a kid to college by thinking about putting money into a 529 plan.  You’re not going indemnify against risk with a tomorrow attitude.  Basketball and financial planning have one thing in common.  Neither are passive sports.  No team has ever passively won a game and neither have financial objectives ever been passively realized.

This is a proactive, 100% or nothing proposition.  Be hot or cold, but be one or the other.  If your retirement lifestyle is of concern to you, then what are you waiting for?  Yesterday is gone and its not coming back.  College costs are one day closer than they were yesterday, and no one knows for sure how much longer we have on this rock.

If it’s worth doing, then do it, today, and with conviction.  Do it with 100% effort.  Nothing good ever came from half hearted or passive effort.  Financial plans will not be realized with anything less than 100% of the energy you muster to the cause.  If retirement is of concern and you’re not participating to the degree that you can in the plans to which you have access, then you’re not giving it 100%.  If you’re not giving it 100%, then don’t expect much from your retirement lifestyle.  Be convicted about it.  Be intentional about it.  Be driven by it.  And lastly, do it today, because whatever your goal, its one day closer today than it was yesterday.

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